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Quilting is a Language

*This post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase the referenced book, I will receive a small commission.  Thanks for reading.  Enjoy!

THE QUILTING BRAIN

The Quilting Brain is an amazing thing.  I think most of us take it for granted.  Common traits among quilters, crafters, and artisans include the ability to “steal” an idea- to see how something is put together & pull an idea from it.  You might not go home & make the exact same thing, but you take something from it & make it your own.

I had a boyfriend who worked in a professional setting & loved to collect unique ties.  He was crazy about them.  He was also the first one to introduce me to the theatre.  We went to see Les Miserables.  One day at our annual Fall Foliage Festival in Bedford County, PA (if you’ve never been- it’s well worth the trip- people travel from all over the US!), I saw a vender selling homemade men’s ties.  I decided that if she could make them, I could make them!  I went home, asked my dad for an old tie that I could take apart to make a pattern out of & went to work.  On the first run through, I did not know to cut it out diagonally on the fabric & ended up with a tie that twisted like a corkscrew!  Hilarious!  Thank goodness for moms who can come along & tell you what you’re doing wrong… I got the cutting problem straightened out & started major tie production.  Eventually, I started to embroidery them as well.  He really flipped out when I presented him with a stocking full of homemade ties at Christmas.  But that’s a quilters brain for you.  I want it- therefore I will make it!

Les Miserables hand drawn & hand stitched on a handmade tie.

Creativity like that can’t always be taught, but I think it can be learned.  It comes from thousands of hours of labor & experience.  When I began learning Spanish, the first thing I learned was to read the words & recognize them in print.  It was surprising to realize that I also had to learn to hear the words & that hearing was separate from reading.  It was the 2nd step.  The final step in fluency was being able to speak because you have to be able to both hear the language, think in it & respond in a very short amount of time.  (I was actually shocked when I first learned that I would one day think in Spanish & not just always translate English to Spanish & vice versa.  I didn’t realize that it would become a part of me.) It takes more practice than you can imagine.  You practice reading.  You practice writing.  You practice hearing.  And, you practice speaking.  If you practice enough, you begin to think in the language; it becomes a part of you.

THINKING IN THE LANGUAGE OF ART

People who are artisans- whether they quilt or sew or paint- don’t realize that they are learning a language- that they can think in quilting, but it becomes a part of them as much as any language.  It took me nearly 40 years to recognize that the reason that I see & react to the world so differently, so incredibly uniquely is because I am completely immersed in the creative process- I think in quilting- I think in art.

How do you think in quilting or art though?  One way is by approaching many facets of life using the design process.

The design process broken down simply is this:

  • Gather up all of your options (materials/patterns/etc.) & survey possibilities (like free writing in creative writing class)
  • Eliminate what doesn’t fit & begin to focus
  • Choose pattern/design/fabric/etc.
  • Begin project
  • Problem solve throughout the project

I follow this process at work.  In sales, I gather up leads for potential clients to work with.  I keep a large file (several boxes actually- kind of like a fabric stash!!!) & when I’m running low on appointments, I go through the box & pull out all of the ones that I might want to work with.  Then I eliminate the ones that can’t afford my services, followed by the ones that aren’t as likely to advertise at that time of year, until I’ve whittled my selections down to the right ones to chase.  Then I problem solve through the process of trying to land the account.

I fall back to the design process when I have any problem to solve, really.  What are my options?  (Gather up all of the possibilities.)  Sweep away the stuff that is too hard, too expensive, ridiculous, etc.  Reduce, reduce, reduce, until I can choose a solution.  Implement.  Repeat the process to further problem solve.

The design process spills over into a lot of avenues in my life and I’m proud to say that it’s a really practical & useful skill set that I have gained from my quilting & art adventures!

SEEING COMPONENTS & POTENTIAL

Another way that you can think in art is by seeing how things fit together & using that knowledge to pull anything apart, extract what you need & create something new.  It’s an incredible talent that seems to be innate to most artisans; so we typically take it for granted.  It’s part of that language of art-  an integral part of how we think & process life.

I was totally guilty of taking this part of the language & the talents I have gained from years of making art in various ways for granted until I went to college.  I was not a little bit surprised to find myself among a dozen PHD candidates who expressed amazement & stated that they couldn’t understand how I could alter an item of clothing by making my own pattern or take a couch that had been kicked to the curb, strip it, figure out how it was upholstered & how to reupholster it, when to me, it was just “common sense.”  It was easy to look at things and see how they worked or didn’t work- what I could or couldn’t do with a given material & what might work on a proposed project if I tried because I had done it with so many materials & so many projects before.  Skill sets & experience easily transferred over to new things.

Blouse gone wrong goes purse!

MISTAKES ARE OPPORTUNITIES

But, of course, it didn’t always work.  One time I ended up making myself a purse out of a blouse that I cut out with the stripes going the wrong way on one panel.  But that’s another thing that the quilting brain does- it sees possibilities.  That ruined shirt made out of fabric that I could no longer get more of at the store still contained brand new fabric.  WHY waste it?!?  ;-). Mistakes are opportunities.

ARGUMENTS FOR & AGAINST

Some might argue that this is not a language that I’m thinking in, but a skill set that I’m applying to various facets of my life.  I think the bell could toll both ways.  Because the skill sets that I’ve gained affects the way that I think & approach life, to me it has become a language.  I also state this because the things we make convey meaning outside of words & to be immersed in the making of those things means thinking outside of words- it means to think in quilting or art.

I picked up a book last night about Scandinavian embroidery & was fascinated to learn about the custom that some of the folk women had at one point of keeping an elaborately embroidered bed made up at all times for show & nothing else.  It was a status symbol among them.  It conveyed meaning.

LANGUAGE AFFECTS PERCEPTION

So- yes.  I think it’s possible to think in quilting.  I believe that art is a language & that it can shape the way that you see, think & interact with the world.  There are some fascinating Ted Talks on the subject of how different languages affect the culture’s perception of the world.

One of my favorite examples notes that in the US where we speak English we generally have 1 word for snow- and will add just a few adjectives such as wet or dry.  However, the Eskimos have 21 words for snow!  They live with it for much more of the year.  They interact with it more intimately.  Of course they see more types of it.  My bet is that there are names for crusted snow verses drifted snow, dirty vs. pure & so much more.  (If I recall correctly, the Ted Talk references this example as well, but I heard it in a different talk years ago.)

Another example that I love comes from my days in Spanish class, as well as the Ted Talk (linked below) that I recently viewed on YouTube (not an affiliate).  In Spanish- there are no words that assign blame to the individual who forgot something.  The literal translation of: “I forgot my keys.” is “The keys, they forgot me.”  What’s interesting is that English speakers are much more likely to be mad at the person who forgot the keys and made everyone late, whereas Spanish speakers accept that sometimes things forget themselves!  (Here’s the link to the Ted Talk for anyone who wants to watch it: How Language Shapes The Way We Think)

Languages really do shape how we see the world & the decisions that we make.  When we immerse ourselves in quilting & art, it becomes a part of us- it becomes a part of how we think & see things.  It is entwined into our vocabulary & vision.  I believe it can only change us for the better.

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Quilting to Heal…

I will not go into a lot of detail because the incident that I am about to describe is very graphic.  However, I do feel that the most general parts of it & the things that I learned are important to share…

On a beautiful autumn day, I saw one of the most horrible things a person can see.  I lived close to a major college campus & had gone to Church that morning.  I wanted to go to a park & take pictures of the waterfalls that afternoon.  The sun was shining, the sky was the most beautiful blue you can imagine, & the fall glory was blazing.  It was Homecoming weekend on campus; so everyone at the college had partied HARD the entire weekend & the town was pretty ghostlike on a Sunday afternoon- just quite as a mouse.

GPS told me to go one direction, but I knew where it was directing me & decided to get on the highway up by the stadium instead because I hadn’t taken that route in awhile.  I passed the stadium, the hospital, & one of the underpasses for an intersecting highway.  My dog, M, was buckled into the seat next to me & was happily watching the scenery go by.  Seconds later my life changed.

A car blew past me in the lane I had just moved out of.  I watched the horrible crash that followed & was the first one on the scene to call 911.  I think God led me there that day because I used to work across the street & I knew the area well.  I was able to give clear & concise instructions to the first responders & they arrived quickly.

I got some minor injuries at the scene, but what I saw & went through with the person who had crashed hurt a lot more.  I went home & went into shock.  I took a week off work & talked & talked & talked trying to get what I had seen out of my head.  What ended up helping was repetitive tasks that did not require a lot of thinking but kept me busy like doing the dishes, going for a walk, & cutting out fabric yo-yos.  I tried a number of things- like working on a painting.  I just couldn’t.  It required me to think & I didn’t have the brain energy to decide which color to put where.  But I could trace & cut circles all day long & that became my life-line.

DIFFERENT WAYS ART/QUILTING CAN HEAL

I thought that was interesting.  Art can be healing in so many different ways.  When I’m stressed from everyday life, getting lost in a project & making decisions about it is a welcome escape.  Matching colors, choosing fabrics, creating a design- it usually rejuvenates me.  But after taking a mental shock like that, I needed something more basic, more rhythmic, like just cutting out yo-yos.

That seems to be the case with other major stressors- like moving or when my schedule is too over-packed for far, far too long.  In situations like that, I get so exhausted for so long, that I feel like I’ve lost brain energy & I need to do something, but I also need to not think & out come the scissors & yo-yo templates!  So- I’ve realized that I need different types of art & craft for different times in my life & that I need to listen to my mind’s rhythms as well as my body’s.

GO WITH THE FLOW…YOUR BRAIN KNOWS WHAT IT NEEDS!

It’s important to make time for the things that give you sanity.  It’s also important to recognize when something works for you & when it doesn’t.  I’ve talked to other people that have been through trauma & encouraged them to have more than one person that they depend on when they’re having really hard days & I have to say, the same applies to your creative life.  You can’t always depend on just one thing to meet all of your stress release or creative needs.

I think a lot of people beat themselves up for this- the tendency to hop around from one project to the next.  Best case scenario, we make fun of ourselves.   Don’t believe me?  Google: “T-shirts dedicated to Quilting UFO’s (Unfinished Fabric Objects)” or go to a quilt show…  You’ll see!

THE “TIME OUT” BIN

But— what if we actually need to do all of that hopping around?  What if you’re just following what your body/mind is telling you that it needs at the time?  On days when you need to block out the world, getting lost in designing a quilt or working on a complicated design will probably be a dream.  Other times, you’ll sit down & try & try & try.  You’ll rip out more than you sew & your poor project will go into the “Time Out Bin” because you just end up mad at it.  Poor quilt!  It’s not it’s fault.  On nights when you can’t focus or concentrate on a complicated project, you probably need something that’s rhythmic- like embroidery work, hand quilting, sewing a bunch of mindless seams, etc.  That’s not a bad thing…so give yourself a break!  I made myself finish ALL of my UFO’s once & I’ve never been more depressed & uninspired in my life.  It completely stunted my creative growth.

So- if quilting is your job, you probably need to find a way to stay on task & get projects done, but if it’s your hobby (as it is for almost everyone), give yourself a break & work on what you need to work on in order to be happy & find your daily sanity.  Remember that what you need from your art life is going to change from time to time.  It can be different types of quilting- or completely different art forms like quilting and knitting.  Sometimes you might even need to throw in a different activity- like mixing your quilting time with swimming (for neck pain relief)!  😉  Find what works for you & don’t beat yourself up about it.

Happy Creative Journey!

 

 

 

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Planning Your Quilt…

It has been said that the hardest thing about painting is getting started.

“It is so fine & yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas.”  

Paul Cezzanne

Quilters face no less of a challenge.  Painters have a couple dozen colors to choose from; quilters have hundreds of bolts, patterns, techniques & variations to throw into their decision making process!  (I say this being both a quilter & a painter & knowing the challenges of both.)

So, here’s the deal; the design process is MESSY- and that’s okay!  First you become a hoarder- then you flip to minimalism!  What do I mean by that?  Well, when I’m designing a quilt, an event, my website or anything else, I start by gathering up everything (+ some!) that I could possibly want to include in the project & then I start organizing what I have & eliminating bit by bit until I get down to the simplest form of the design that I can create & have a concrete direction to go in.

EXAMPLES

It works with shopping.  You throw everything you want into your cart & head for the dressing room.  Trying things on will eliminate a huge portion of the pile.  Then you sort out what’s left by what you can afford in the order of what you love the most, right?

It works with drawing.  You start out with the general shape & keep erasing, redrawing & making small changes until the picture becomes what you want.  You change, first this line, and then that one.  Sometimes a line even becomes a smudge or a smudge becomes the ghost of a shadow.  You might even change the composition at some point or decide to draw something different entirely.

It works with writing.  Remember elementary school when they told you to write a rough draft & then edit & re-edit?  That’s the process we’re working with here.

When you’re trying to figure out where to start- you start with the most general idea & the most details/quilting materials you can gather up!  And then you work backwards eliminating bits & pieces until you have a simple & clear plan/project!

STASHING/ PATTERN CHOICES

So with quilting- you start with the hobby of STASHING.  Yes- it has been decided- building your stash IS a separate hobby from actually using it!  When I’m designing a project, sometimes I shop my stash & sometimes I hit the local store; usually I end up doing a little of both…  Either way, I start out gathering up ideas & that means first sorting patterns or pattern ideas & then sorting stash fabrics & hitting up the local store.  But let’s look at pattern decisions first.

When I’ve sorted through my top patterns or ideas, I can consider:

  • Is there a time line/ Is it a gift with a deadline?
  • What’s my budget?
  • What’s my goal?  (Do I want to master a new technique, play with a favorite color palette or fabric, or run with a new design or pattern?)

It’s smart to consider that if my budget is small or my timeline is tight, choosing a big project (while unfortunately tempting & likely to occur!) is not necessarily smart.

  • Do I have fabric in my stash that I can use or do I need to buy more?
  • If I use fabric in my stash, make a mistake & need more- can I obtain it or will I have to change or scrap the project?
  • Do I know all of the techniques in the pattern I want to make or do I need to take a class or look up a tutorial?
  • If I make an unfixable mistake, is that going to affect my timeline- particularly if it’s a gift- & do I have a backup plan?

The biggest part of planning a project- & getting past the stupor of a blank canvas- of not knowing where to start- is asking yourself the right questions.

By: Christy Grace Collins
My Yo-Yo Stash! (Yes, I have a fabric stash and bins & bins of yo-yos that I have pre-made for whenever the mood strikes. Hence, I also have a Yo-Yo Stash!)

This works with picking out the fabric, too.  Your eye will naturally go to patterns & colors that you like, but do they always go together the way that you want them to?  That’s probably the biggest frustration for inexperienced quilters.  Many companies have picked up on these insecurities & put together both patterns & colors into fabric families that work well together.  The matching is done for you as long you stay within the product line, which usually includes pattern books as well.  That’s a good place to start, but it’s not a good place to stay.

CHOOSING FABRICS

If you want to learn how to pick out the best colors & patterns for your quilts possible, you will want to ask yourself a few more questions

CONTRAST: Does your quilt pattern have any places where there are dark & light fabrics next to one another creating a contrast?  It should tell you that you need a certain amount of a darker fabric & another amount of the lighter one.

FABRIC PATTERN SIZE:  How large are the pattern pieces in comparison with the pattern on the fabric?  This is important. A large pattern on the fabric will be lost on small pattern pieces. This is why I always choose a very small or blended pattern for my yo-yos. Look closely at the yo-yos in the picture above- you will see very subtle patterns- not giant, bold ones.  When the fabric is gathered, any picture or large design is lost anyway, and it just looks like confetti if there are a bunch of color blocks in the fabric. So, for my Yosaic™ Quilting I steer clear of large patterned fabric.  However, larger patterns for something like a block or stripping are great.  They also work if you’re cutting the block out to specifically include the pattern on the fabric- such as a bird or scene.

TYPE OF FABRIC: Are you picking out the same types of fabric?  Flannel typically doesn’t go next to a batik in a quilt because they won’t iron the same, lay the same or sew the same.  With some things like crazy quilts, you can mix fabrics, but typically, if you’re making a batik quilt, you should be sticking with all of the batiks with the outside possibility of some cottons.  Your local quilt shop can help you to understand all the different types of fabric & which one is best for your pattern or project.

WARM & COOL COLORS: This deserves a post- or several posts(!) all by itself.  Warm colors vs. cool colors?  How do you even know if a color is warm or cool?  On one shopping trip, I was looking for brown fabric & my mom brought me a bolt that she thought would work.  I shook my head & told her that there was too much yellow in it.  She looked completely baffled & pointed out that it was a brown on brown print!  Where in the heck was I seeing yellow?  I explained that one of the dye colors in it was yellow & that it had a warm tone.  I was looking for a cooler toned brown- something that was more on the blue side.  It really threw her- & it’s probably throwing you right now, too.

Don’t worry!  You don’t have to know THAT much about warm & cool tones to learn how to see the difference between warm & cool fabrics & to know which to use in your project.

Color Wheel Choices-Warm Against Cool
Fall Wreath

Warm colors are the ones that you see in the fall & spring- particularly in the fall when the leaves are changing- think of warm sunshine, burnt orange, blood red, pumpkin, the hazy blues of the fall sky, the warm greens of the leaves before they change.  You can also think about it as any color that you would describe as warm- like the warm sands on the beach. Conversely, cool colors we typically describe using words that denote a feeling of coolness- refreshing turquoise ocean, icy blue winter sky, etc.  They’re also the colors that you typically see in winter & summer: winter white, grey skies, electric pink bathing suit, fuchsia flowers in the islands.

Now, here’s why that matters: a warm subject placed on a cool background creates a contrast that is as dramatic as light against dark!  It POPS!   There’s contrast that draws the eye & makes the subject more vivid.  So, if you want a comforting, homey effect with your quilt, you might want to go for all warm colors- that blend & flow into one another- like farmhouse creams, browns, & greens.  Use all cool colors if you want something that is as cool as the island breeze.  But, if you want your medallion to stand out in the center of the quilt or your appliqué in the block, use a contrast of either light against dark or warm against cool tones.

I will write more posts at a later date that go into more depth on these subjects & give more examples…but here are 2 for right now.  The butterfly below has those beautiful warm tones set against a summer blue sky.  The wreath above also has those same fall oranges, reds & browns.  Set against a grey wall, it pops!

To remember the difference, think about opposites: every other season we change from warm to cool colors.  Winter & summer are cool & spring & fall are warm.  With some practice, you will figure it out- & your quilts will thank you!

COLOR WHEEL

You can also print color wheels from dozens of places on the net & take those with you on your shopping trips.  Anything that is at an opposite point on the color wheel is going to compliment its counterpart.  For example- red is directly across from green; so red & green go together.  Find one color you like & look for what’s exactly opposite it.  That’s your best chance for a good matching contrast, although many other colors will work & your local quilt shop owners always have a good eye!

By Christy Grace Collins
Yosaic™ Butterfly Quilt

PRACTICE RUN:

Quilting can be a big investment & deliberating on which fabric to pick & whether or not it’s going to work can leave you in a stupor at your proverbial blank canvas.  So, if you’re not sure if what you’ve picked out is going to work, no problem!  Do a colored pencil version first.  Make a copy of your pattern.  Get colored pencils that match your fabric & do some coloring to check your color choices.  You can also cut out a tiny version of your pattern with the fabrics you’ve got to see if you like what you’ve got before you make that big commitment with the rotary cutter!

It’s not as intimidating if you break it down into questions to answer & individual steps to take.  You’ll be making amazing quilts in no time!

 

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The Secret to Complex Patterns

THE STORY:

I had so much fun recently at the restoration grand opening of a historic home in our town.  As any quilter will do, I walked around GETTING IDEAS!  Whooo-hooo!  They had lovingly restored complex quilt pattern-like wooden flooring made from a variety of woods (the darker ones created shadows in the designs!).  There were beautiful antiques all throughout the house true to the time period, gorgeous chandeliers, elegant fireplaces & the feeling of a very grand home.  My favorite feature was the wood work on the walls in the dining room.

That evening, as I was chatting with a gentleman who worked for the bank that had endowed the restoration, he remarked that the old world craftsmanship was just breathtaking & he didn’t know how they had done it.  I agreed with the breathtaking part, but was happy to show him how they had done it.  I moved over to the wall & showed him how the long sections of wood were 2×1 inch boards of hard wood- probably oak or maple- running lengthways with shorter sections intersecting to make the square shapes between them.  Within the intersections there were square pieces of board that must have been a 1/2 inch thick or so.  They had also used 1/4 inch round trim to make a beveled edge between the intersecting boards & the square centerpiece.  (So rotten of me but I just could not resist teaching.  Lol!)

This man’s jaw dropped open & asked how I knew all of that- just as another man eavesdropping from part-way across the room interjected, “What do you do for a living?”  The man who joined our conversation turned out to be the restoration architect who didn’t dispute a word of my description.

To answer both the first & second man’s questions, I explained that I was a QUILTER! & the design was quite simple to translate- minus the seam allowances!  (Lol.)  The architect nodded his head & we proceeded to have a great conversation.

WE STOP BEFORE WE START:

Complex projects- whether it’s woodworking or quilting- can be really intimidating.  I was trying to show the man that if you look at the individual pieces & how they go together it becomes a doable project.  This is the secret to progress in all labors of love.

I spent years wishing that I knew how to knit beautiful lace shawls, hats, scarves & sweaters.  I first started learning how to knit when I was 6.  I thought it was easy when I was just doing the knit stitch every row.  Then I learned how to crochet- & forgot how to knit…  (Slight detour!)  It took me more than 35 years to pick it up again & even then I was extremely intimidated by what I wanted to do because I just didn’t know how or where to start.  The patterns that I liked were long and complicated.  They contained stitches that I could’t even imagine.  The patterns changed every row.  “HOW do you even manage to enjoy something like that!?!”  I wondered.

And so, I let the intimidation of what I didn’t know how to do stop me from achieving what I wanted to do for a very long time.  Then I made one crucial change.  I decided that I would never knit the same pattern twice- that each time I started a new project I would look for a pattern that contained 1 new stitch or variation.  I decided that 1 new thing to absorb was doable.  And I was right!  It didn’t take as long as I thought before I knew what all of those crazy terms were, was enjoying those long patterns that changed on every row, & had made it to lace!

It was just a matter of learning 1 new step at a time.

So- you can walk into your favorite quilt store, look at medallion quilts, fussy cuts, or paper piecing & convince yourself that you’ll never be that good, or you can pick a project that gets you 1 step closer to the kind of projects that you want to be able to do.  It’s really that simple.

When you take enough of those steps, eventually you get to the point where you can even design because you’ve made so many mistakes & taken so many things apart in the process of putting something together that you understand how it all works- not just how to follow the pattern.  That’s why I was able to see how the woodwork on the wall & floor was put together.  It just takes time & practice to learn the properties of each material- how they can & can’t be put together- & then you can manipulate it any way you’d like.  You can design your own dreams!

The real question is- Are you willing to do the workone step at a time?

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A few of my one steps…

Feather & Fan- one of my first lace projects!  While pattern oriented projects are not my strength, I have pushed myself to learn lace knitting & am quite proud of this pattern in particular. I think it is beautiful!

This is the first set of cables that I tried- yes- the first!  I am definitely crazy sometimes.  Took a little while to get the hang of it, but so proud of it!

I can no longer crochet- the motion is different from knitting & bothers me post-surgery, but I was really happy with this simple, but beautiful pattern that I did years ago!

As I stated above, I’m not great with patterns.  I prefer to create my own design; but I’ve pushed myself to learn arts like this so that I can expand what I can design.  Here’s some piecing work- my first 2 stars!

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The Quilting Lies I Told Me

A LOGICAL EXCUSE…

One of the most common phrases I hear when I’m demonstrating or talking with perspective students for art, quilting, or any hand craft is,

“I wish I could do that, but I just don’t have the patience…”

And it’s true.  Part of what we have lost in modern society are the values of patience and persistence that are learned through handcraft and cottage industry arts.

CHILDREN LEARNED HANDCRAFT EARLY IN LIFE

The concept that “children should just have time to be children” is extremely new and is leading us towards a society that doesn’t know how to take care of itself.  For millennia, children were part of the family industry from age 4-5 on up.  It is well documented that not more than 100 years ago, children were required to knit a certain amount of rows on a stocking or sew a certain amount on the family tally before they were allowed to go out to play (“No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting” by Anne Macdonald).  They had chores and responsibilities- and it was good for them.  They developed patience and persistence in trying and trying again until they gained proficiency in a skill or craft.  They had pride in being part of their family’s survival and in being depended upon.  They grew up self-sufficient and able to care for younger brothers and sisters at a very early age.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT!

So, yes- there’s a reason that so many people today feel like they just don’t have the patience for sewing, quilting, knitting and other forms of handcraft.  They haven’t learned to try and try again, and to keep on trying until they become proficient at a skill because they haven’t been taught.  Fortunately, there’s a cure for that!

  1. Just start- knowing that it’s going to take some persistence at first.
  2. Choose initial projects that are small and quick to finish.
  3. Progress to harder projects that build both skill and your will to work on something that takes more time.

I’M STILL FRUSTRATED…

We are too used to instant gratification in our society today & I think it can have a negative impact on us mentally.  Traditional arts and crafts remind us to slow down and get involved in enjoying the process of something.  They provide healing from modern stresses and mental storms.

That being said, if you do try a form of needle craft and are completely frustrated with it, there may be a reason outside of our new societal norms that many will never consider.  That is to say that different forms of fine art and craft have different intrinsic rewards and it depends on what you are individually motivated by as to what you will enjoy.  What does that mean?  Here are a few examples to help you sort it out.

ENJOYMENT OF THE PROCESS

Someone like myself who likes to take on extremely long term projects (See the waterfall quilt at the beginning of this post!) that are often intricate as well as repetitive is motivated by the enjoyment of the process itself.  This type of person often enjoys the rhythm of the work.  They will likely enjoy knitting and crocheting in addition to hand embroidery or hand quilting.  They don’t mind how long it takes to complete a project.  The process of working on it is the reward itself.

ENJOYMENT FROM COMPLETION OF PROJECTS

Someone like my cousin’s wife is driven by the exact opposite- the completion of a finished project.  She rarely works on more than one project at a time and often makes the same pattern over and over and over again because each repetition of it gives her greater speed.  She feels like she has accomplished something when she completes a quilt or project and flies through several per week!  AMAZING, right?!

HOW WE GET MIXED UP!

I would be extremely frustrated if I took her approach and she would be very discouraged if she took mine.  If you have an interest in something- enough to say, “I wish I could do that,” you probably have a talent in it that can be developed.  The trick is in staying with something long enough to know whether it is simply not the right type of hand craft for you- or if you just need some time to develop your skills.  It takes real courage to let yourself fail at something when you first attempt it and to continue to persist until you can find the joy- whether it is in the process or the completion of the project.

MATHMATICAL 

Think about the kinds of things that you already like to do.  If you are more mathematical and precise, you will probably like something with a pattern and instructions.  You may be one who needs to finish one project before starting another.  You may like the precision of using a machine instead of hand-sewing.  Blocking out time specifically for your sewing might be important in making it an enjoyable experience.  Following the pattern precisely and having perfection in your finished piece is likely to be what gives you satisfaction.  You may become easily frustrated if there aren’t sufficient instructions or if you don’t have a pattern or class to follow.  Or, you may master each step before you start to invent your own patterns or make variations.  You probably get frustrated when someone else doesn’t do it the “right way.”  And that’s okay.  That’s your mojo.  Go with the flow!

Close-up of Yosaic™ Quilting

CREATIVE

On the flip side, if you are more artistic and free-spirited, you may want to learn handcrafts that allow you to make a lot of modifications on the fly.  (Yosaic™ Quilting is great for this!). You’re likely to be someone who has a number of projects going at once- which is perfectly fine!  In fact, once upon a time I thought there was something wrong with me for having so many projects in progress and made myself finish them all before I started new ones.  I have never been more depressed or artistically uninspired in my life!  I discovered that flowing from project to project is what kept my creative juices flowing.  So– good news!  There’s NOTHING wrong with that!  Work it, Girl!  Work it!  You’ll probably carry your projects with you and be perfectly fine with multi-tasking, getting in a few stitches here and there at the ballpark, in a waiting room, or wherever you have a chance.  You’ll see opportunities and ideas everywhere.  Something that has a precise pattern will probably frustrate you.  No worries.  Go with what you enjoy.

THE SECRET…

And, that’s basically the secret.  If you don’t have the “patience” for something that you wish you could do, it’s either the wrong type of art or it’s time to learn patience simply from doing it- the same way our ancestors did for thousands and thousands of years.  If you experiment, you’ll figure it out.  Good luck & have fun!

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